BRCS:Chapter three/Magic/Fundamentals of Cerilian magic

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This article is a Birthright Campaign Setting (D&D 3.5/D20) page

The BRCS Document is a comprehensive toolbox consisting of rules, races, classes, feats, skills, various systems, spells, magic items, and monsters compatible with the d20 System version of Dungeons & Dragons from Wizards of the Coast.

The world of Aebrynis teems with magical earthpower. This force, referred to by the elves as mebhaighl (meh-VALE), is the very essence of the living earth. Although many can sense it, few know how to access it. Mages with both the talent and the knowledge can create wonders and terrors with the power the land provides them. Cerilian spellcasters recognize several types of magic that differ in the amount of knowledge and control over mebhaighl that their practitioners must exercise. These types of Cerilian magic include: divine magic, greater (or true) arcane magic, lesser arcane magic, and realm magic.

Divine magic is the magic wielded by Cerilia’s rangers, druids, paladins, and clerics. The ability to channel divine energy is provided by the caster’s strength of will and through the channeled might of greater powers. All clerics, druids, and paladins receive their spells from a patron deity. Rangers are unique among divine spellcasters casters in that they do not act as a conduit for the power of a deity, but instead, channel the subtle powers of nature without the aid of a patron deity.

Greater (true) arcane magic is the magic wielded by Cerilia’s sorcerers and wizards. The casting of true magic in Cerilia requires the harnessing, mastering, and channeling of mebhaighl. The ability to harness and shape this immense magical essence is a matter of heredity - true mages must be born with the stuff of magic in their veins. This ability is exceedingly rare; only those of elven descent or blooded scions (whose ancestors were touched by the gods) have any hope of mastering the forces of greater magic. True mages are uncommon and many are figures of mystery and destiny.

Lesser arcane magic is the magic wielded by Cerilia’s bards and magicians. Unable (or unwilling) to tap the great energies of the land fully, these arcane spellcasters specialize in the application of the less extravagant powers of the world. Their arcane lore is not based on the channeling of immense natural powers, but rather on the refinement and evocation of a more precise and subtle lore. Any person of sufficient intelligence and training can comprehend lesser magic. Although lesser mages are not capable of evoking balls of roaring fire or turning someone into a toadstool, the subtlety of their art allows them to perform delicate acts of magic for which the immense powers of true magic are not always well suited. Most notably, lesser magicians are capable healers, an effect deemed impossible for practitioners of the true magic. The practice of lesser magic consists principally of the arts of knowing (divination), seeming (illusion), com­mand­ing (enchant­ment), sum­mon­ing (conj­­urat­ion [sum­mon­ing]), and healing (conjuration [healing]). Most lesser mages employ their magics with great care to bring health, wonder, and guidance without inspiring superstitious dread.

Realm magic exceeds the capability of any mortal spellcaster who doesn’t have a regent’s supernatural connection to the land or its people. Cerilia is a mystical place with ancient ley lines, magical sources, and the spiritual powers of devoted worshippers all available to those who know how to harness them. The power of the magic commanded by a single spellcaster is nothing compared to the power available in a great ancient forest or the heartfelt devotion of hundreds of true believers. The most powerful ritual spells are known as realm magic. Realm spells create exhaustive and extensive greater magics woven from the power of the land itself. Spellcasters can achieve spectacular results by tapping into this power, but only greater spellcasters who control source holdings (such as wizard or sorcerer regents) or temple holdings (such as cleric or druid regents) can do so without destroying themselves.

shortcut iconSee Also: Limited lesser magic - a non-BRCS variant

The Shadow World

The sages say that long ago, perhaps before humanity existed, the world changed according to its own rules, without rhyme or reason. A lake might form where a mountain had been, white glaciers moved over deserts, and rivers flowed through the sky. This was a time before the gods, yet ultimately resulted in their creation. The gods, it is believed, were formed out of the land, and their natures bound them to it. Not wishing their natures to change without warning, as did the land, they began to enforce their will upon the world. Mountains, rivers, shores, and seas all took shape and stayed constant, bent to the will of the young gods. A rift was formed between the elements of permanence and transience, creating two worlds where once there was one.

The world of men the gods named Aebrynis . In Aebrynis, the laws of nature and magic both apply: a rock falls when it is dropped, fire burns until it has nothing left to consume, and the mystical energy of a spell discharges according to the rules of magic. The other world is called the Shadow World, a realm of fairy enchantment separate from, but parallel to, Aebrynis. Whereas Aebrynis remains constant, only transforming in response to the actions of its inhabitants over long periods, the Shadow World is mutable and ever-changing. In the Shadow World, the laws of nature are suborned by an even greater force: Awnmebhaighl (also known as the Seeming ). An unpredictable force, the Seeming cannot be truly explained, as every rule set to quantify it appears full of exceptions and contradictions. The Shadow World is seeped in the awnmebhaighl in much the same way that Aebrynis is seeped in mebhaighl. Awnmebhaighl strengthens the power of shadow and illusion and it has the power of true illusion.

Since the battle of Deismaar and the destruction of the old gods, the Shadow World has taken an even darker turn. The taint of Azrai has taken deep root in the Shadow World and it has become a world of cold, eternal twilight. The horrors of mankind's darkest fears now walk the Shadow World. Even during midday, most (if not all) of the Shadow World is cloaked in the darkest of winter nights. The Shadow World has become a place of fear and grave danger and now, more than fifteen hundred years later, only a scant number of people know more than a few tales of the Shadow World and its inhabitants. Common folk everywhere tell terrifying stories of a Shadowy Lord whose taint now seeps through the Shadow World. He's known by many names throughout the land – the Rjurik call him the Night Walker, the Anuireans name him the Cold Rider, while the Khinasi know him as the Darkling. In any event, the borders between the Shadow World and Cerilia have been growing weaker in recent years, and strange things have been happening in the frontier-lands and wild places. The halflings are said to have originated in the Shadow World, fleeing to Aebrynis in response to this terrible danger.

The Seeming or “true illusion” World dominates existence in the Shadow World. While the Shadow World remains a parallel to Aebrynis, the laws of nature do not always apply there. There, illusions live and shadows walk of their own volition. Powered by the magic of the Seeming, things unreal come to life. Passage between the two worlds is possible, but it is difficult as the rift (or veil) keeps the two worlds apart. Passage between the worlds is possible through the use of magic, but can sometimes be managed without the use of magic in areas where the barriers between the worlds are thin. Some halflings retain the ability to still pass freely between the two worlds, but most are loathe to do so for even they now find the ever-changing Shadow World dangerous and difficult to navigate. The Shadow World confounds all mortal senses. Even the most knowledgeable guides and learned loremasters do not fully understand the workings of this mysterious realm.

Those who have crossed over to the Shadow World report that it resembles a dark and distorted version of Cerilia itself. There are mountains and rivers where similar features exist in the daylight world, but the land is cold and empty. The veil between the worlds seems to be most weak in areas where the two worlds most closely parallel each other. Thus the Shadow World is nearest to Aebrynis in places touched by darkness. A musty old barrow may hold nothing but moldering bones in Cerilia, but if one were to enter the same barrow in the Shadow World – or even on a night when the Shadow World was near – he might find wights, spectres, or worse. In the depths of winter, on the darkest nights of the year, and in places far from the habitation of mankind, it is possible for the Shadow World to be so near that one may pass into it unknowing.

Long ago, the mages of Aebrynis learned how to draw upon the power of the Seeming to manifest their will in the real world. Even lesser mages are capable of the minor enchantments necessary to pierce the veil between the worlds enough to draw forth small quantities of awnmebhaighl that can be shaped to the caster's will. The most powerful illusion magics, such as shadow evocation, shadow conjuration, and shades, draw upon the "true illusion" of the Seeming to create quasi-real effects. Likewise, summoning spells such as summon monster draw upon the power of the Seeming to create short-lived but reasonably life-like manifestations of the caster's imagination. Summoning spells cast in areas where the worlds are close may sometimes be more effective then normal, but such casting introduces the risk of attracting the attention of horrors able to cross the weakened boundary.

The effects of most necromantic magics powered by mebhaighl are weak and short-lived, for the power of the living earth is generally in opposition with necromantic effects. Most powerful necromantic magics therefore draw upon the more mutable power of the seeming. The forces that create and sustain permanent undead are always seeped in the power of the Shadow World. Thus, the barrier between Aebrynis and the Shadow World is always weaker when undead are present.

The properties of the Shadow World make it ideal for transportation magic as well. Time flows differently in the Shadow World, and dimensional magics such as dimension door or dimension walk use this property by creating a short-lived passage through the Shadow World. Wizards should be very careful of over-using these spells; more than one mage has vanished and never returned from the Shadow World for its very land can warp itself in ways that trick and test those who bring the creative powers of their fears and desires into that mutable realm.

It is believed that, prior to Deismaar and the emergence of the practice of true magic by humans, the most powerful lesser human mages were capable of channelling awnmebhaighl through sources in much the same way that regent mages channel mebhaighl through sources today. If true, that lore remains a closely guarded secret known to only a select few.